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City’s plan to overhaul Cape Town’s informal settlements gets the go-ahead
Council’s adoption of the City of Cape Town’s re-blocking policy - to bring dignity and delivery to residents in informal settlements – is set to increase service delivery and improve safety. The adoption of the City's Policy to Inform the Proactive Re-blocking of Informal Settlements is a watershed moment for residents of informal settlements in Cape Town.
Re-blocking is a community-based process whereby housing structures are reorganised or clustered in such a manner as to decrease the extreme density in informal settlements. This is vital for improving access by emergency and other vehicles, creating safe spaces between structures, increasing service delivery, and fostering a sense of neighbourliness where children can play safely and residents are able to keep a watchful eye on public spaces. 

‘We are hoping to establish five re-blocking projects in informal settlements in the current financial year as part of our commitment to redress and improve service delivery. These projects include Flamingo Crescent in Lansdowne and Kuku Town in Kensington. The City has already achieved great success with its pilot re-blocking project in Mtshini Wam, a settlement with approximately 200 households located near Milnerton. This pilot project is nearing completion,’ says the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, Councillor Tandeka Gqada. There are currently 204 informal settlement areas in the Cape Town, varying in size and density.

The organic form of informal settlements, which are high density in nature, often makes it difficult to provide municipal utility services such as water, sanitation, electricity access and waste removal within the required national guidelines. Informal settlements are also at a greater risk of the effects of disasters, especially fires. The layout and the density of these settlements makes it very difficult for the City to respond effectively to fires.

The policy will be implemented in informal settlements identified for re-blocking on City-owned land. It relies on a vital partnership and a sense of shared responsibility between a vast number of City directorates, community and non-profit organisations, donors and beneficiaries.
This policy is aligned to the strategic focus areas of the City’s Integrated Development Plan (IDP), namely a commitment to an opportunity city, a safe city, a caring city, an inclusive city and a well-run city.

In the next financial year, 21 new projects for re-blocking have been identified.

How it works:
  • Community and non-profit organisations (NPOs) consult communities in identified areas beforehand to determine whether the prospective beneficiaries would like re-blocking in their area.
  • If communities agree to re-blocking, a Memorandum of Understanding for the effective implementation of re-blocking is signed between all stakeholders.
  • A Project Steering Committee is appointed comprising representatives from all stakeholder groupings.
  • The Human Settlements Directorate’s Informal Settlements Department, in partnership with the community partner, compiles a settlement profile through undertaking a comprehensive survey of the area and households are registered.
  • NPOs and community partners, with input from the City, develop an overall re-blocking plan.
  • The Project Steering Committee submits an application for grant funding to the City’s Project Review Committee – this includes funding for earthworks, municipal engineering services, and relocation kits to assist residents whilst the process of re-blocking is underway.
  • NPOs and the City assist in taking down the housing structures and moving the beneficiaries. NPOs pay for part of the structure and the City funds the relocation kits.
  • In order to encourage a sense of ownership and shared responsibility, beneficiaries are asked to contribute 10% of the overall cost. If some beneficiaries are not able to contribute, help is provided by the partner organisations.
  • Many communities have already started saving money through stokvels in support of re-blocking.
  • The City invests in the operational maintenance of the municipal services and roads.
  • The Informal Settlements Department, in partnership with the local communities, will ensure that no encroachment or occupation of the open spaces occurs.

The City is meeting with suppliers of innovative solutions in the form of fire-retardant paints, innovative shack designs and safer lighting units.

‘We view this as a turning point in our commitment to redress and a new model of shared responsibility that can change the face of our informal settlements,’ says Councillor Gqada.
Published by the City of Cape Town.
© City of Cape Town, 2016